Like Madonna Northbound to Erie, PA

Among the surprising, wonderful phone calls I received Wednesday to share birthday wishes, was one from my Mark, across the seas teaching young minds in Budapest. Though we've talked several times, this time he was using a computer phone, or some such thing I couldn't really hear him describe. One reason, besides the enormity of land and sea between us, my Mark was hard to hear was that the telephonic device being used created an echo - and I'm not talking slight echo but serious everything-one-says-is-repeated-in-absolute-clear-and-crisp-quality-echo - whenever each of us spoke. "Helllllllllllllllllllllooooooooooooooo!!" (Helllllllllllllllllllllooooooooooooooo!!)

And so on.

One thing that this echo did not prevent, however, was the recounting of our favorite tale, the one where while we were dating in high school, and on a trip to Erie, Pennsylvania to visit Mark's father, I decided to have some fun with the paper cups meant for drinking at the water fountain on the train. They were cone shaped, cheap, and I don't know what the train personnel were thinking including that kind of temptation for the young and easily amused on a three million hour train ride or however the hell long it was.

Mark and I used to get kicked out of classes, or talked to at least, for incessant, apparently disruptive laughter.

We met on a relatively calm afternoon during cross country practice. I had shut the van door firmly on Mark's fingers and he, then a good deal shorter than me, asked me please, even said "excuse me," could I open the door back up, set his hand free.

With our history, there was no question that upon discovering these paper water cups, these tit-cones the train had innocently placed aboard for use as drinking vessels, that what I was to do upon returning from the lavatory, was stick them in my shirt and saunter back to our seat, Mark laughing silently, his face bright red not from embarrassment, but from the sheer joy of a train ride well-spent.